You're Ready to Pivot. Now What?

Are you looking to take your company in a new direction? Here are a few actionable steps you can take that can help you pivot your business.
June 04, 2018

Business pivots are challenging—whether you're switching directions to attract new customers or to better serve existing ones. If you're looking to pivot your business, here are some steps you can take to help get your business on the right path.

1. Come to peace with your decision.

Before you get anyone else involved, make sure you're completely on board with the pivot—even if you're not sure what the new direction will be. People look to their leaders for guidance. If you're on the fence, it may be hard for others to get on board.

I've seen executives (usually founders) struggle to commit to a pivot, which negatively influences the team. So make sure you're fully committed before you bring anyone else in.

2. Loop in your leadership team.

Once you're sold on the pivot, loop in the leadership team. You could do this by scheduling a meeting or taking everyone on an offsite to share the news. You can then offer details that can help explain your decision.

I had a client who had been in business for more than 20 years, but recent technology changes had drastically increased the maintenance cost of their product. New, more nimble and less expensive startups were threatening their market share

Your transition plan should include an overview summarizing why the company is pivoting and explaining the new direction.

When they brought me in, they had less than three years to make a change before they'd be out of business. They had to pivot to survive. One of the first things we did was bring together the leadership team. We shared details about the company's current state and asked department heads for their ideas. Bringing this level of authenticity and inclusion helped get buy-in quickly.

If you need help articulating the change or organizing an offsite, a consultant can help. Some meeting facilitators and business coaches specialize in managing organizational change. Engaging them at the beginning can be helpful at this stage and beyond.

3. Identify what and who is affected by the pivot.

Consider asking yourself, "What do we need to do to pivot and who needs to know about it?" 

Once you've looped in your leadership team, these are the two questions it helps to get answered. You can get started by reviewing internal documents (i.e., business processes, organizational charts, workflow diagrams and products/services, etc.). 

Then you can identify areas and people who will be affected by the change.

4. Create a transition plan.

Now that you're clear on why you're pivoting, what needs to change and who needs to be involved, it's time to create a transition plan.

Your transition plan outlines the tactical steps for the pivot. The plan should include a list of the areas in your business that are changing, all of the stakeholders, a project plan and schedule and a communications plan.

What's Changing and KPIs

Your transition plan should include an overview summarizing why the company is pivoting and explaining the new direction. 

Are you pivoting to put your business in a better position to capitalize on an opportunity? Are you making the change because your business is in jeopardy? 

Knowing exactly why you're making the change can help with everything from business planning to communicating the new direction with your team. Also, consider including your key milestones and key performance indicators (KPIs) so those who read it can understand what a successful pivot means for the organization.

Stakeholders

There are usually three types of stakeholders: those who are directly impacted, those indirectly impacted and those who need to be informed of the change. Create a list of your stakeholders, and document how they're impacted by the change and when they need to be notified.

You can use organizational charts and customer, partner and vendor lists to identify stakeholders. Be sure to review business and customer workflows and marketing materials to ensure you're not missing anyone.

Next, it's time to decide what needs to change to make the pivot happen. You can figure this out by working with your direct (and sometimes indirect) stakeholders to discuss the change, get their feedback and identify the tasks that need to be completed. Identifying who needs to be involved helps with planning.

Transition Schedule and Communication Plan

The transition, or project, schedule contains all of the tasks that need to be completed for the pivot, who's responsible for them, milestones, dependencies and start and end dates. 

The communication plan outlines how often you'll notify your stakeholders of the change and what you'll tell them at each stage.

5. Execute

Once you share your transition plan with your team, you can start executing. Use the transition schedule to track everyone's tasks and determine how things are progressing. And your communication plan will help ensure everyone stays informed.

Pivoting isn't easy, but it is often necessary. Embracing the change early, looping in your team, creating a solid schedule and engaging in ongoing communication can help make it easier.

Read more articles on pivoting.

Photo: Getty Images